Fans of The Enid, often referred to as The Enidi, are a tenacious and devoted bunch, and will need no introduction to a band that has boasted twenty plus members and endured numerous highs and lows over their thirty five year career, remaining steadfastly committed to, perhaps the most underrated of the progressive rock outfits to emerge in the mid seventies. Not that the only constant in the bands long career, Robert John Godfrey, will thank us for calling them a progressive act (more of which later), but as we believe the term can reasonably be accorded to any act that considers innovation to be a major motivational force (which could mean anyone from Magma to the Aphex Twin), we’re going to stick with it regardless. We began, as always, by asking about his earliest musical memories and discovered, rather fantastically that Vera Lynn sang for his father and three other wounded soldiers in an officers ward of an Army Hospital at Kohima on the border between Burma and India in early 1943 and that his first musical experiences were actually in church
RJG: “I sang in the choir as a boy from about the age of seven. I loved the sound of the organ and the wonderful mechanics of this king of instruments. We had a windup gramophone when I was still a toddler. I got given all sorts of classical records by relatives and friends of the family.”
Total Music: Although he didn't take up the piano until twelve he nonetheless attended both the Royal College of Music and Royal Academy of Music, and from 1968 to 1971 Godfrey became the orchestral musical director with Barclay James Harvest making contributions to early recordings and helping establish their orchestral style. The relationship sadly did not end amicably?
RJG: “The times I remember most are the one's involving Woolly (Stuart ‘Woolly’ Wolstenholme) whose tragic suicide was announced just recently. He was the one with whom I had most in common both intellectually and emotionally. But I suppose my obvious memory has got be the first concerts with the orchestra. Writing the music for and conducting a hundred piece orchestra in The Royal Albert Hall at the tender age of 22 was a pretty big moment. I remember a lot of other more negative stuff which it would be in poor taste to mention now that a number of the dramatis personae have died (Drummer Mel Pritchard died of a heart attack in 2004).”
Total Music: The Enid began in the mid seventies at the height of punk, how did the band come about, it must have been difficult being so out of step with the prevailing trends of that period?
RJG: “We weren’t as out of step as might be believed, hence our surprising popularity at the time. Although musically sophisticated, The Enid were radically different from any progressive band who had come before us. We were young, unassuming, vulnerable to derision but completely in tune with the politics of our time. Furthermore, the unique musical style we had inadvertently developed was romantic, powerful and sexy: Like the music of Stars Wars, it was easy to love. The Enid’s appeal was in our ability to offer a safe haven for girls and boys who didn’t like punk because of its total lack of musicality but nevertheless wanted something other than what had gone before. John Peel referred to The Enid pejoratively as ‘A Level rock’ after having had to preside over three unbelievable encores at Reading Festival. But he was actually right. The Enid’s success lay in our appeal to the sons and daughters of nice people living in nice houses doing A levels or doing a serious subject like physics and at university – the 1980’s was different.”
Total Music: You’ve been quoted as saying that you don’t like the band being referred to as ‘progressive’, what is your issue with this label?
RJG: “For me, the great progressive bands/people of the ‘progressive era’ and beyond are King Crimson/Robert Fripp , Peter Gabriel , Yes (with Wakeman), Pink Floyd, Queen and Tears For Fears. There are many worthy others, (even The Enid) who have made their contributions but these are to my mind the greatest innovators of sophisticated new music of their time.
I wish I could avoid sounding pompous or conceited. I am neither of these things. Yet it appears that I am now regarded by many as one of the founding fathers of the progressive movement of the late sixties/early seventies. I was one of the first to work seriously with an orchestra/band combination. I was ‘apprentice’ to Norman Smith the then producer of Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things and Barclay James Harvest. I went on to develop a unique musical style with my band's music.
It is for this reason that I find myself at odds so much 'new' music which calls itself progressive when it simple isn’t the slightest bit progressive. ”
Total Music: There has been a long list of Enid members over the years, do you prefer to work with people who can successfully interpret your ideas or are you looking for collaborators?
RJG: “There have been a large number of peripheral players with The Enid who hopped on and off the boat. But there has been a smaller number of core creative participants in a vision. I am best as a collaborator.”
Total Music: You have a pretty unique relationship with your fan-base (The Enidi), how did that come about?
RJG: “The day we realised that our fans are not ‘punters’ or ‘consumers’ but patrons, friends and contributors without whom The Enid could not exist and would have no reason to exist. It is the fans who make the music happen!”
Total Music: We understand legal reasons prevent you from discussing fully the problems you are having with your previous record company Inner Sanctum [Robert is in the midst of an action in the high court against Inner Sanctum’s Gerald Palmer to have an agreement he made in August 2008 concerning the Enid’s back catalogue declared void - Ed] but, if possible, can you tell us what has happened and how things stand?
RJG: “I would love to tell you all about it but best not just now. What I can say is as follows:
‘This is a weird and potentially terrifying story of a struggle going on behind the scenes which a year ago could have destroyed The Enid. Yet the band is stronger today than a year ago and we will continue from strength to strength. I am supremely confident that all will end well for us eventually. I am a great believer in Karma and in the power of generosity. Something or someone will intercede on our behalf, of that I have no doubt.
There are many victims of their own greed; doomed-men-walking whose hubris prevents them from seeing the noose into which they place their neck. All we have to do is keep faith and do our best. Some piece of catastrophic bad luck usually visits itself upon the wicked.’”
Total Music: Your problems with diabetes and depression are well documented, How do you feel your fight with depression affects your creativity, and has how you control it, if indeed you need or want to control it, changed over the years?
RJG: “Winston Churchill called this his Black Dog and I know what he meant. He is always there: Sometimes asleep, sometimes lying quietly in front of the fire: At other time he is up with the Hunter’s Moon – on the rampage. I can only control it. I have to accept it as part of who I am and to seek an accommodation. For as things have panned out, for all that depression can limit creative output at the time, it somehow is also responsible for the well of creativity which springs forth on sunnier days.”
Total Music: Some fans of the band have been saying that new album Journey’s End is a return in style to the early '80s recordings like Something Wicked This Way Comes would you agree with this?
RJG: “Not really. Journey’s End is as much about Jason Ducker and Max Read than me… What may be true is that Journey’s End is brimming with the same confidence as the 1980’s but the music has moved on.”
Total Music: What projects do you have looming just over the horizon?
RJG: Invicta – The second part in the Journey’s End trilogy – The Spell Redux – A complete reconstruction of an album only half completed in 1984 – New music to be premiered at a Symphony Hall next October.
At the time of writing Journey's End was still unavailable in online stores like Amazon, The Enid manager Ian Eardley told us ‘It has been delayed due to complications as part of the legal battles that the band are fighting. This part has now been resolved and Journey's End will be available digitally worldwide any day now’
the PDF version to read this interview in full, including a track by track outline of Journey's End